Poached chicken with noodles
Photo: John Kernick
Stow away the heavy cast-iron casserole pans. Say "Same time next year" to the turkeys, roasts, root vegetables, and bubbling, all-day stews. The passage from winter to spring echoes the transition from an ornate Beethoven symphony to a cool, clean, sparkling jazz solo.

So take advantage of this fleeting culinary moment by improvising with a handful of recipes that reflect the colors and flavors of this gorgeous, seasonal in-between. Consider: Curly dime-thin ribbons of zucchini tossed in a sweet tangle with caramelized onions ; poached Pacific cod drizzled with a citrusy black olive vinaigrette ; a perfect vegetable soup of carrots, celery, squash, and button mushrooms , lightly simmered in a hot broth. And for dessert, how about a fantastic carrot cake that would make most rabbits sob with pleasure? In this case, the recipe derives most of its sweetness from fruit, not sugar, giving this much-adored delicacy an unaccustomedly nutritious spin.

The trick here is simplicity, ease of preparation, and surrendering to the natural tastes and textures of the ingredients (using leeks and just a dash of olive oil in homemade hummus , for example, trades heft for buoyancy and zip). As a result, spring is allowed to speak, lightly and eloquently, for itself. May winter rest in peace; and see you next December.

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